By Catherine Powell
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
Cyber crime has become a massive problem in this country. Did you know that there were more than 623 million cyberattacks in 2021 alone? What's even scarier is not only are those numbers expected to rise in 2022, but all too many consumers and small business owners don't realize their devices are under attack until it's too late. To help you keep hackers at bay, I thought I'd give you the top-10 warning signs that your device is under attack by hackers. That's because the earlier you can mitigate an attack, the less damage hackers can do to your system and your life.
#1: System Slowdown - Cyberattacks seldom start with a warning light and a buzzer that alerts you that your device is under attack. The first inkling of a problem usually occurs when your device slows to a crawl. All too many people put this symptom down to an old machine or too many programs running at once. That's their first mistake. The public isn't usually aware that a system slowdown is all too often caused by malware being unleashed. If left unchecked, not only will your device continue to perform at a glacial speed, the hackers will be allowed to rifle your data, intercept your passwords, gain access to your friends and customers addresses, or enlist your device to a botnet designed to carry out more attacks. If you don't want your world turned upside down by hackers, the next time your device slows way down, shut it down, remove the battery, and take it to your nearest IT professional at once.
#2: Does your device have a mind of its own? - If your device starts exhibiting unusual behavior, this is another indication that you are no longer driving the bus. Symptoms can include unusual cursor movements, unauthorized software installation, anti-malware shutdown, and/or unsolicited password changes. Any unusual behavior on a device is a sure sign that malware or a third party have penetrated it. The longer you allow this activity to go on, the more access and damage a hacker will do. Fail to take prompt action and it won't be long before you lose all control of the device and the data it contains.
#3: Do popups appear like magic? - As annoying as onscreen popups can be, if they begin appearing frequently, this is a sign that your device has become part of a botnet. These nefarious robotized online networks are used for everything from click-fraud to directed denial of service attacks. Cybercriminals use botnets to turn a profit by illicitly pumping up the traffic to pay-per-click sites or by dumping so much traffic on a targeted website that its server crashes. If popups begin to appear at random anytime you surf the web, it's a sign that your device has been recruited by hackers.
#4: Are you unable to update your software? - This is another common problem for those who have been hacked. In fact, one of the most common ways of breaching a device's security is to exploit a known security hole. It's also the prime reason software creators issue updates, to patch such holes. Obviously if hackers exploit a known security hole, the last thing they want you to do is upload the update that's designed to plug the hole.
#5: Is something fishy running on Task Manager? - Another way to spot rats in the electronic woodpile is to open Task Manager only to see if a suspicious process is running. Many malicious subroutines are designed to run in the background to avoid detection. They usually have an arcane name and use an inordinate amount of resources. If you detect an unfamiliar process that is sucking up your device's RAM, shut down the device, remove the battery, and take it to an IT expert immediately.
#6: Have your management controls been changed without your authorization? - If they have, chances are hackers have cracked your system and are taking control of your device or network. The only thing worse is if these interlopers not only have admin or root access, but have locked you and any legitimate administrator out of the system. This kind of access not only gives hackers unlimited access to every file on your device or server, it allows them to add, alter, or delete files contained therein.
#7: Has your device been overheating lately? - This is another symptom of hacking, especially if your device overheats quickly after it has been sitting idle. Depending on the hack, many times a device that's been conscripted into a botnet will be running even after a user powers a system down. This can cause the CPU to overheat. If you hear the cooling fan whir to life the moment you power up the system, take it to an IT expert to rectify the situation before your device becomes part of a hacker's zombie horde.
#8: Has your device suddenly become a chatty Cathy? - Should you suddenly find your friends, family and coworkers responding to emails or texts purportedly coming from you that you never sent, you've been hacked. One of the first things hackers will steal from your machine are any contacts they can use to spread their online poison. Typically the message will intrigue your contacts by starting off with something like, "You've got to see this," or "Check this out." Then it will direct them to click on a link that will not only show them something cool, it will also load malware onto their device. If someone you know asks you if you sent a message you know you didn't, you not only need to get your device checked out, you need to send all your contacts a warning to avoid clicking on any links purportedly sent by you. Conversely, if you receive an email or text from a friend directing you to click on a link, call to verify they sent it before you open up an electronic can of worms you'll soon come to regret.
#9: Receive any messages enticing you to take action lately? - They could have been poison pills designed to get you to upload malware onto your system. Even if you receive a directive from a known entity such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, GoDaddy, Uber, FedEx, UPS, or any other trusted firm directing you to click on a link, don't do it until you contact customer service to verify the legitimacy of the message. Hackers have gotten so good at cloning websites that their phishing pages look identical to the real thing, even to the point of having a URL that is eerily similar to the legitimate site.
#10: Has your device been hijacked? - If you turn on your device only to find a notice informing you that you need to pay a ransom or risk having your data deleted or sold on the dark net, shut the device or network down immediately before contacting an IT expert. Any other action taken by you will only make matters worse. If you logon only to have a popup appear that tells you that your machine has been infected with malware and you need to click on the attached link, don't fall for this trick. The only thing you'll do will be to add even more malware to your system.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com